Why Mad Men is the best show to start watching right now

The show's sleek, sleazy narrative provides something that no other show on television can offer

98437

I do so envy anyone who has never seen Mad Men. You are the lucky ones – you can unveil this precious thing for the first time, in one go (all 72 hours of it), as you frolic at the summit of the on-demand mountain, where Mad Men tops the poll of our 100 greatest shows to watch now.

Mad Men is gorgeous, a sleek, clever, painfully acute, emotional drama centred on a 1960s advertising agency in Madison Avenue, New York. Don Draper – cold, amoral, a user of women (and men) – is its chilly heart. It was never more than cult viewing on mainstream television (here it bounced from relative obscurity on BBC4 to total obscurity on Sky Atlantic, with teeny-weeny viewing figures to match).

98438

It ended for ever last year but now comes its chance to reach a new audience with a guaranteed afterlife on Amazon, iTunes and Sky. Our top 50 – decided by RT’s team of critics following hours of impassioned debate in a locked room – is full of such shows to enjoy from top to tail. Want to reacquaint yourself with Poldark and the art of scything? It’s there, at number 12. And what about London Spy? Hello, it’s at number 23.

Or maybe you’d like to try something new, something you’ve heard people shouting about. Like Transparent (number two) for instance, the award-winning comedy drama starring Jeffrey Tambor. Or Making a Murderer (number four) the true-crime documentary series that will leave you debating the intricacies of the US justice system with anyone who’ll listen. Or maybe you’re happy wallowing in the familiar, knowing that Alan Bennett at the BBC (our number six) is as good as it gets. With Talking Heads, the elegiac and tender A Day Out, or the arch comedy of An Englishman Abroad, you could well be right.